Tag Archives: Cognitive Functions

Depression and the Brain

A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found people with a high family risk of developing depression had less matter on the right side of their brains. The finding was similar to that found in brains with Alzheimer’s disease according to the researchers.

Brain scans revealed a 28% thinning in the right cortex in people who had a family history of depression compared with people who did not. Findings were based on scans of 131 people aged 6 to 54 with and without a family history of depression.

The thinning on the right side of the brain was only related to a family predisposition to depression. People who were actually depressed also had thinning on the left side of the cortex.

The authors suggest that having a thinner cortex may increase the risk of depression by disrupting a person’s ability to decode and recall social and emotional cues from other people.  Subjects who had a thinner right cortex did less well on tests of memory and attention.

Findings suggest that a thinning right cortex relates to a predisposition to depression and to cognitive impairment.

Practical Tips for Your Executive System

No worry, this is not a list of leadership skills or how to become the best CEO in the world! Rather, you may not even realize you have your own “Executive System” that sits in the region of your brain known as the frontal lobe. The largest and youngest member of your cortex, the frontal lobe is a very interesting part of you. It facilitates many important and distinct skills that are used everyday. Examples of such skills include planning, organization, analytic, sequencing, multi-tasking, inhibition, creativity, attention and discrimination, fluency, emotional expression and perception, ethics and social grace, and judgment. Even your personality is the product of frontal lobe function!

We refer to the frontal lobe as the “executive system” because it serves the role of executing the multiple intentions that arrive from other parts of the brain. It is the CEO of the brain or the grand Maestro of the behavioral and cognitive symphony of the brain. Clearly, the frontal lobe—executive system is critical to your neuronal health.

Some practical tips to stimulate and exercise your executive system include the following:

1. Organize your day, organize your room (good one for the teenagers in the house!), and help to organize an event or even your child’s schedule.

2. Participate in planning a vacation, trip, or some future event.

3. Practice expressing different emotions and then perceiving emotions on the faces of others.

4. Practice stating aloud the alphabet, but alternate between letters and numbers in a logical order. Any time you can alternate between two distinct categories is a workout for your executive system.

5. Give yourself some free time to imagine and create.

6. Pay attention to ethics and decision making that involves good or poor judgment.

7. Watch how typical personality traits can change with stress, mood, and alcohol. These chemical triggers alter the frontal lobe and can also alter one’s personality for a temporary period of time.

8. Express as many words as you can in 60 seconds that begin with different letters.

9. Draw 30 small circles on the page and write words of different colors under each circle. Then color the circles with a color that is different than the word you wrote under the particular circle. Now, state aloud the color of the circle, not the written word for each of the 30 circles as fast as you can. See how many you can correctly state in 30 seconds.
10. Go to www.Fitbrains.com and play the following games to exercise your executive system:

Good luck with your workout!